Woo hoo, it's autumn and quinces are back in season, and as I have guests coming around for lunch tomorrow, I thought I'd make the dessert today. And thanks to a great recipe by Brigitte Hafner which I found at the Sydney Morning Herald's Website, I now have some truly ruby-red quinces ready as part A of the dessert. Here's how it all went.
Let's start with the glowing rubies in their pot, after
five hours slowly changing color in the oven.
But I am way, way ahead of myself, and so let's go back to the beginning...
Shop-bought quinces, all covered in
a dust-coloured down, called a
'bloom'. Sydney's climate is a bit too
warm for happy quince growing, and
so I am perfectly happy to just wait
patiently until autumn comes around
each year, and enjoy the three to
five months they are available
in our local fruit shops.
If only they could invent a 'scratch and sniff' widget
for bloggers, as this spiced sugar syrup smelled
divine as it bubbled away. Like wandering through
a spice market in some faraway place. There's orange
peel, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, vanilla beans
and star anise, as well as roughly equal amounts of
water and caster sugar.
Peeling and coring quinces is the boring bit, and it
does take time. These things are not smooth and
compliant like apples, but I find that a vegie knife
is a perfectly good peeler (it's quick, even if it does
slice off more flesh than a proper peeler). And the
cores can be quite firm, woody and tough, depending
on where you cut and the fruit itself. Make life easy
for yourself and buy biggish quinces, accept a bit of
wastage and trimming them isn't such a chore. And
don't discard the peels or cores, either (see below).
Once peeled, quinces go brown faster than you can
say "Yikes, they're brown" so don't worry too much,
they all go very red in the end. Next step is to put
all the quinces into a big baking dish or big pot, and
cover them with the strained spiced sugar syrup.
Next step is to cover the quinces with a layer of muslin.
Now, a word of warning for newbies with muslin...
My friendly local dress fabrics shop told me to wash
then boil the muslin in water for a few minutes prior to
using it. This takes care of any unwanted particles
hanging around after the manufacturing process. Well,
that's what he said and so I believe him. Where were we?
That's right, cover the quinces with a layer of muslin.
Remember all the peels and cores we retained? These
go over the muslin in a thick jumble layer.
The recipe says then add a layer of baking paper.
Gosh she's keen, but I am a recipe-follower by nature,
so a layer of baking paper it is. But wait....
Then a layer of foil, tucked in at the edges. None of
that syrup moisture is going to escape from this baby.
For the complete overkill, the cast iron pot's lid goes
on top, and into a 160°C oven for five hours. A truly
wonderful aroma, spicy yet sweet, filled the house
this morning (did I tell you I like to cook in the
mornings? I started at 8 – morning all!)
And five fragrant hours later we're back at the hero
shot of the delicious sweet rubies of flavour, ready for
tomorrow's little gathering.
Now, I will cheerfully admit to a certain amount of cowardice about the rest of this dessert, which I won't be blogging about just quite yet.
Lunch's main course is going to be a Moroccan lamb and vegetable tagine, with a spiced cooked carrot salad, saffron rice (instead of the ubiquitous couscous) and a green leaf garden salad on the side.
Dessert might just be baked quinces with honeyed yoghurt if the other part of the dessert goes badly. This is because I am also attempting to cook at Lemon Yoghurt Syrup Cake. Now, I am not a cake-baker at all, but I thought I'd give it a go. We'll know how it turns out when the cake cools down fully, later today, and I attempt to get it out of the tin. If it is a complete disaster, then it's quinces and yoghurt, folks. If it's a success and it's a light cake, spiced quinces and yoghurt. Wish me luck and I'll let you know how it all went, next time round.